1.         Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 373bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

On 30 January 2008, the Head of the Policy, Strategy and Resources Unit of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport reported to the World Heritage Centre that the Government of the United Kingdom had announced on 6 December 2007 that the proposed 2.1 km bored tunnel scheme for improvement of the A303 road overlooking the Stonehenge ancient monument had been cancelled because of the increased estimated costs (more than USD 975 million). This meant that it would no longer be possible for English Heritage to build the proposed new visitor centre, outside the World Heritage property, since its planning consent was dependent upon implementation of the A303 road scheme. It would also further delay the planned closure of the A344 road, which cuts the avenue very close to the Stones.

A thorough review of visitor management and access to the Stonehenge World Heritage property (including the proposed closure of the junction of the A344 road with the A303) is being carried out by English Heritage and other stakeholders. This work is being overseen by a high-level project board, chaired jointly by the Minister for Culture and the Minister of Transport. It is intended that proposals for a visitor centre and the draft revised management plan should go out for public consultation in the summer of 2008, with the objective of having the visitor improvements in place by 2012.

Although work on improving visitor facilities, and on closing the A344 minor road, is to be welcomed, the State Party should be encouraged to consider longer term measures to improve the landscape of the Stonehenge part of the World Heritage property.

The State Party also proposed some minor adjustments to the boundaries of the Avebury portion of the World Heritage property, which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee under Item 8 of the Agenda (Document WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add). These are designed to include significant areas of ancient landscape subject to statutory designation which are at present only partly included within the existing boundary. They include an important prehistoric–medieval landscape, a major long barrow, a palisaded enclosure, and two groups of round barrows.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

N/A

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.114

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.104, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007)

3. Also recalling that at the time of the inscription of the property in 1986 the Committee noted with satisfaction the assurances provided by the authorities of the United Kingdom that the closure of the road which crosses the avenue at Stonehenge (A344 road) was receiving serious consideration as part of the overall plans for the future management of the property;

4. Regrets that further delays have taken place in the long overdue improvements to visitor access to the Stonehenge part of the property, to its presentation to visitors, and to the setting of the monuments;

5. Urges the State Party to address the issues above in priority;

6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a progress report on the closure of the road, visitor management and access, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8B.71

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Approves the minor modification to the boundaries of Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites, United Kingdom.

 

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8B.93

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Adopts the following Statement of Significance for Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites, United Kingdom:

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage property is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments.

It comprises two areas of chalkland in Southern Britain within which complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and associated sites were built. Each area contains a focal stone circle and henge and many other major monuments. At Stonehenge these include the Avenue, the Cursuses, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and the densest concentration of burial mounds in Britain. At Avebury, they include Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, and important barrows.

The World Heritage property is of Outstanding Universal Value for the following qualities:

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world on account of the sheer size of its megaliths, the sophistication of its concentric plan and architectural design, the shaping of the stones, uniquely using both Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and Pembroke Bluestone, and the precision with which it was built.

At Avebury, the massive Henge, containing the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, and Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, demonstrate the outstanding engineering skills which were used to create masterpieces of earthen and megalithic architecture. 

There is an exceptional survival of prehistoric monuments and sites within the World Heritage site including settlements, burial grounds, and large constructions of earth and stone. Today, together with their settings, they form landscapes without parallel. These complexes would have been of major significance to those who created them, as is apparent by the huge investment of time and effort they represent. They provide an insight into the mortuary and ceremonial practices of the period, and are evidence of prehistoric technology, architecture, and astronomy. The careful siting of monuments in relation to the landscape helps us to further understand the Neolithic and Bronze Age. 

Criterion (i): The monuments of the Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage Site demonstrate outstanding creative and technological achievements in prehistoric times.

Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. It is unrivalled in its design and unique engineering, featuring huge horizontal stone lintels capping the outer circle and the trilithons, locked together by carefully shaped joints. It is distinguished by the unique use of two different kinds of stones (Bluestones and Sarsens), their size (the largest weighing over 40t), and the distance they were transported (up to 240km). The sheer scale of some of the surrounding monuments is also remarkable: the Stonehenge Cursus and the Avenue are both about 3km long, while Durrington Walls is the largest known henge in Britain, around 500m in diameter, demonstrating the ability of prehistoric peoples to conceive, design and construct features of great size and complexity.

Avebury prehistoric stone circle is the largest in the world. The encircling henge consists of a huge bank and ditch 1.3km in circumference, within which 180 local, unshaped standing stones formed the large outer and two smaller inner circles.  Leading from two of its four entrances, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues of parallel standing stones still connect it with other monuments in the landscape. Another outstanding monument, Silbury Hill, is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe. Built around 2400 BC, it stands 39.5m high and comprises half a million tonnes of chalk. The purpose of this imposing, skilfully engineered monument remains obscure.

Criterion (ii): The World Heritage Site provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction and of the continual use and shaping of the landscape over more than 2000 years, from the early Neolithic to the Bronze Age.  The monuments and landscape have had an unwavering influence on architects, artists, historians, and archaeologists, and still retain a huge potential for future research.

The megalithic and earthen monuments of the World Heritage Site demonstrate the shaping of the landscape through monument building for around 2000 years from c 3700 BC, reflecting the importance and wide influence of both areas.

Since the 12th century when Stonehenge was considered one of the wonders of the world by the chroniclers Henry de Huntington and Geoffrey de Monmouth, the Stonehenge and Avebury sites have excited curiosity and been the subject of study and speculation. Since early investigations by John Aubrey, Inigo Jones, and William Stukeley, they have had an unwavering influence on architects, archaeologists, artists, and historians. The two parts of the World Heritage Site provide an excellent opportunity for further research.

Today, the Site has spiritual associations for some.

Criterion (iii): The complexes of monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.

The design, position, and inter-relationship of the monuments and sites are evidence of a wealthy and highly organised prehistoric society able to impose its concepts on the environment. An outstanding example is the alignment of the Stonehenge Avenue (probably a processional route) and Stonehenge stone circle on the axis of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, indicating their ceremonial and astronomical character. At Avebury the length and size of some of the features such as the West Kennet Avenue, which connects the Henge to the Sanctuary over 2km away, are further evidence of this. 

A profound insight into the changing mortuary culture of the periods is provided by the use of Stonehenge as a cremation cemetery, by the West Kennet Long Barrow, the largest known Neolithic stone-chambered collective tomb in southern England, and by the hundreds of other burial sites illustrating evolving funerary rites.

The State Party also proposes the revision of the brief description as follows:

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage Site is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments. Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest in the world. Together with inter-related monuments and their associated landscapes, they help us to understand Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and mortuary practices. They demonstrate around 2000 years of continuous use and monument building between c. 3700 and 1600 BC. As such they represent a unique embodiment of our collective heritage. 

3. Recommends that assessment for statements of authenticity and integrity / statements of protection and management should be postponed to the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee (2009) awaiting adoption of a methodology and an agreed format for Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for inscribed properties.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8D

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/8D,

2. Recalling Decisions 30 COM 11A.2 and 31 COM 11A.2, adopted at its 30th (Vilnius, 2006) and 31st (Christchurch, 2007) sessions respectively,

3. Recalls that, as decided at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) by Decision 31 COM 11A.2, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will not be able to examine proposals for minor or significant modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties whenever the delimitation of such properties as inscribed is unclear;

4. Congratulates States Parties in the European Region and the States Parties of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia on the excellent work accomplished in the clarification of the delimitation of their World Heritage properties and thanks them for their efforts to improve the credibility of the World Heritage List,

5. Takes note of the clarifications of property boundaries and sizes provided by the following States Parties in the European and Arab Regions in response to the Retrospective Inventory, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-08/32.COM/8D:

6. Requests the European and Arab States Parties which have not yet answered the questions raised in 2005, 2006 and 2007 within the framework of the Retrospective Inventory to provide all requested clarifications and documentation as soon as possible and by 1 December 2008 at the latest.